Shark Week: Is There Liability in Shark Attacks?

Despite the viral news coverage they receive (and the fact that Shark Week is once again upon us), shark attacks are both rare and not always quite as deadly as Hollywood might have us believe. Moreover, apparently, sharks do not always swim to a certain theme song.

But for surfers, paddleboarders, and other wave-loving ocean-goers, the threat of sharks is extremely real and disconcerting.

Who Is Liable for a Shark Bite?

Unlike domesticated animals whose owners can be held legally responsible for their actions, sharks are, by their very nature, wild. Such animals, unless confined or “kept” by people, are not under the control or responsibility of anyone.  In most cases, when wild animal attacks happen, they happen in the wild.

It can hardly be claimed that someone going into the ocean was unaware of the risk of attack, whether by sharks or other sea creatures.

Here’s the rub: if you “entice” a wild animal by offering it food and someone else is hurt, you may be liable for their injuries, and may face criminal penalties depending on the laws of your state.

What About Guided Shark Tour Operators?

Guided tours aren’t completely safe when wild animals are involved. But can you sue?  There was an incident where a shark bit a tour participant in the calf.  The injured plaintiff brought a claim alleging that the tour leader was drunk and supposedly threw bait in such a way that it led the shark straight to her.  What will the court decide?  That remains to be seen.

What is clear, however, is that swimming with sharks can easily lead to injuries and that aquarium visits are probably the best way to enjoy the wonders of the deep. However, if a shark bites you, it is worth investigating whether there may be any legally responsible party. Contact Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari at 973-845-4421 today and speak to a New Jersey attorney who knows a thing or two about bites.


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